With so little going on in my life right now, I find myself reminiscing about my past lives. As I’ve written on this blog before, when I was in elementary and middle school, I had the tendency to stand up in the front of the classroom and say whatever the hell came to my mind. I began different movements and activities because it never dawned on me that someone would stop me from bringing to life my wild imaginings. I was coming up with crazy schemes without any doubt that everyone would want to join in. While I do still think I have this ability to bring people together, overall, I’ve calmed down somewhat. We’re also busy adults now, so everyone can’t really drop everything to join in on my hair brained schemes. No matter how much I wish they could…
With how few inhibitions that young Renata had, I find her infinitely more interesting than present Renata because she made things happen. Middle school and elementary school are just interesting times in general, I think, because of how few cares we had…and what we decided to care about.
I Smell Gift Shop!
As a young person, money (and other forms of currency that were big in the elementary school market…more on that in a bit) was a big deal. Of course, as a young person, it wasn’t a big deal for the same reasons that it is now. My friends and I loved to spend time at the mall buying things and thought that gift shops were actually the main point of field trips. One of my closest childhood friends loved to get off the school bus on a field trip, stick his nose in the air, and exclaim “I smell gift shop!” One of my parents’ friends (who was another parent of a child in my class) still likes to joke that the first time she and I had a conversation, I was asking her for some extra money for something I couldn’t afford in the gift shop on a class field trip. She was so impressed with my ability to calculate how much money I needed and my tenacity in asking for it that she agreed.
Like many elementary and middle schools in my area, our school had regular skating parties at the local roller rink. By the time I was in middle school, our principal had begun to call the venue ahead of time and ask that the gift shop be shut down during our skating parties because we would just stay at the shop and buy knick knacks the entire time. We would hardly venture out into the rink. Even the skating parties weren’t safe!
Our favorite place to have birthday parties was Chuck E. Cheese. I personally was addicted to Chuck E. Cheese because I got the thrill of gambling while also getting a PRIZE at the end. What could be better? I’m glad that we now have Dave & Busters so that I can still get this thrill without needing to go to that child casino run by a mouse cult leader.
Just like I am now, small Renata was an opportunist. Unlike how I am now, I was not always…an ethical opportunist. One weekend in third grade, my family had a yard sale. As is usually the case with yard sales, we had plenty of stuff that we hadn’t sold. I decided that I wasn’t quite happy not selling the rest of my stuff. Determined to still make some money, I took my yard sale leftovers into school to see if I could sell them to my classmates. When my mom picked me up from school that day and saw the empty yard sale boxes, she assumed that I brought my old toys in to give to my classmates and was mortified when she found out that this was not the case. A pouting Renata promised to give back all of the money that I had made that day when I saw my friends the next day. What? I saw an opportunity to get money for my junk so I took it. I saw nothing wrong with this solution…
I’ll bet my mom has plenty of stories like this about me doing something not-quite-wrong-but-not-quite-right-either. As a bold kid, I tried all kinds of schemes, even if I pushed the envelope a bit to do them.
I did actually begin a free-of-charge “business” in 3rd grade where I used cut up stickers to mend broken pencils. Our teacher gave us stickers as rewards for different things, so me and my “team” would cut any stickers that we earned into strips and use them to put pencils back together that had been broken in half. How many pencils broke in our class, you may ask? Several. But to be honest, I think people just liked to break their pencils for fun and have us fix them. An excellent business woman creates a product that you didn’t know you needed for a problem that you didn’t know you had, amirite?
…then again, I guess a good business woman probably also charges for her products, huh?
After all of that opportunistic and entrepreneurial spirit, one thing that I do find amusing is that now I have no interest in starting my own business. While I love working for a startup and doing several different tasks for them, the thought of trying to start a business on my own sounds like way too much work (one of the reasons I decided not to become a life coach even after earning my certification). Although to be fair, if all it took to run a business was to slap some stickers on a pencil, I’d definitely be more game.
There’s Always Money in Erasers
Like many other elementary schools, our school had a trading culture. While I never had trading cards like Pokémon or Yu-Gi-Oh!, in my elementary school, we still had a thriving economy with different currencies. I don’t know about you, but in my elementary school, erasers and gel pens were traded. And there was an unspoken hierarchy to what was “worth” more in the market. For gel pens, mini gel pens were the hot commodity. Whether or not this makes sense, one mini gel pen was worth several regular-sized gel pens in our “market,” probably because they were rarer. Erasers were similar — the erasers that everyone got in their goodie bags at parties weren’t worth as much as rarer erasers. I still have an entire shoebox full of colorful erasers featuring everything from Lisa Frank erasers to erasers in the shape of food to erasers that look like lipsticks. I just can’t part with them, and I mean, you never know when you’re going to need to make the trade of a lifetime.
A couple of my favorite erasers were: a small lion eraser that I believe I got from a teacher as a reward for something. I kept it on my person at all times in a special bag, but it disappeared when I loaned it to a friend and they “lost” it. I can almost guarantee that she stole it. Jealous jerk. The other eraser was one that I traded my friend (the same one who used to say “I smell gift shop!”) for. It was a small white dog with green ears and it was adorable. This friend strung me along for days, asking for more and more of my erasers to trade for his, but I couldn’t help it, the puppy was just so cute! The elementary school market was serious business, and that means that we had our fair share of sharks.
While I definitely have different priorities than I did back then, I still love looking back on those times and laughing about my boldness and my shopping habits. For the record, I do still feel a thrill when I walk into a gift shop.
Did these stories spark any memories from your childhood? What were the currencies in your “elementary school market”?